The problem in our sports is structural

The problems around our football - and sports generally - are structural; they cannot be reduced to the responsibility of one person or a few individuals no matter how key their positions.

Editor,

RE: "Does Nzamwita deserve a second term as FERWAFA president?" (The New Times, June 24)

 

The problems around our football - and sports generally - are structural; they cannot be reduced to the responsibility of one person or a few individuals no matter how key their positions.

 

The failure to progress our sports’ competitiveness can also not be laid to Rwandans’ inability to excel.

 

Such a conclusion is belied by incredible achievements in other even more critical domains where Rwanda is a pace-setter from incredibly low bases.

Perhaps the most credible reason there has been such disappointing progress on the sports front, including in competitiveness in football, is that we have understandably had to prioritize issues of greater importance for our social welfare.

Or perhaps we believed progress in those other broader social areas would eventually translate into concomitant improvement in our sports competitiveness and similar non-priority areas as our social improvements became translated into parallel improvements on a broader front.

Clearly, this has not been the case and we shall need to rethink our sports strategy if we want this area to catch up with improvements Rwanda has notched up on other fronts. That would require greater deliberate plans and their systematic implementation.

And such a strategy has to start from the grassroots; from primary schools/villages, to secondary schools/districts, provinces/institutions of higher learning and on to national-level competitions/tournaments.

It will also need to involve public-private partnerships, with local businesses (in different districts and provinces) stepping on the plate with sponsorship of local teams and sports development within their areas and provinces.

Government - at different levels - should be responsible for putting in place an overall sports development policy within which such joint public-private efforts should be made, and some seed funding to encourage private participation, but in exchange for such public support, government must also have the power of oversight over how our sports are managed.

Currently, most global sports federations - especially football’s FIFA - will suspend a country’s participation in competitions organized under the auspices of those federations, even if government’s intervention is prompted by clear corruption in the management of the sport by national federations.

To recap: We need to go back to the drawingboard and rethink our entire sports strategy. It may indeed be that Mr Nzamwita’s management of our football is inept.

But the failure of our sports (not just football) to keep pace with our country’s progress in a wide array of human domains points to a more structural problem in our sports; a problem that transcends any individual, no matter how key his/her position in the management of that sport at the national level.

Mwene Kalinda

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